Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yom Kippur 5655 First Ma'amar


Chazal[1] relate that the children of Israel fasted each day of the forty days preceding Yom Kippur, when Moshe Rabbeinu was on Mount Sinai to receive the second tablets.  On the fortieth day, the day that was to become Yom Kippur, they fasted the entire twenty-four hour period.  God was appeased and established that day as the day of forgiveness for all time.  The Sfas Emes teaches that certainly Aharon HaCohen, who was involved in the sin of the golden calf, also helped the nation to return to God to rectify that sin.  This is the reason that God's forgiveness each year is dependent upon the service of the High Priest.

Certainly fasting each day is a way of rectifying sin.  What, however, was the significance of fasting for the entire twenty-four hours of the last day?  Chazal[2] teach us that the nation was on a particularly high level of faith because we said, "נעשה ונשמע/We will do and we will listen." (Shmos 24:7)  We committed to whatever God commanded even before we knew what He would require of us.  This special level of commitment and faith was broken with the sin of the golden calf.  The Midrash[3] says, "You broke, 'נעשה/we will do.'  Be careful with 'נשמע/we will listen."

The nation understood that in order to rectify this, they would have to prove once again that they would do even without being required.  They therefore fasted on the entire day that would become Yom Kippur even before being required to do so.

As a result the luchos habris were given on Yom Kippur.  The words of the ten  commandments were engraved in the stone tablets.  As well, they were engraved in our own hearts, "כתבם על לוח לבך/Write them on the tablet of your heart." (Mishlei 3:3)  However, the sin prevented us from receiving the tablets both physically and in the spiritual sense.  As long as the sin was not rectified, we were not ready to receive the physical tablets and their words could not be engraved in our hearts.

However, after we were forgiven on Yom Kippur this all changed.  Chazal[4] teach us, though, that notwithstanding the repentance for the sin of the golden calf, the consequences of that sin are nevertheless included in every punishment that God metes on the nation in every generation.  The Sfas Emes teaches us that each year on Yom Kippur a small part of that sin is forgiven.  As a result every one of us, the entire nation merits entering the gates of holiness where a bit more of the holiness of the luchos is engraved in our hearts.


[1] Tanna D'Bei Eliyahu Zuta 4
[2] Shabbos 88a
[3] Shmos R. 27:9
[4] Sanhedrin 102a

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